The City of Vancouver held its first public Open House on the proposed upgrades to the Burrard Bridge on June 6th, 2015.
The upgrades to the Burrard Bridge and to the Pacific/Burrard intersection come with a proposed price tag of $30 million. Here’s an approximate breakdown of the budget:
- $6 million – new handrails
- $4 million – crash barrier (between cyclists and motor vehicles)
- $2 million – pier fenders (new steel piles)
- $2-3 million – concrete repairs to entire stretch of the bridge over water (not done in previous repairs)
- $6 million – coating steel (sandblast old lead paint with containment, recoat steel)
- $2-3 million – widening of north end of Burrard Bridge (back to 6 lanes, new pedestrian walkways on widened bridge along concrete span)
- $8 million – intersection of Pacific & Burrard (eliminate pedestrian islands, reconfigure entire intersection)
To their credit, transportation staff provided excellent information on how the bridge repair budget would be allocated. It’s important to note that some of the repair work to the Burrard Bridge must be undertaken regardless of the other upgrades (such as the structural concrete repairs that were not completed in 2014).
The most contentious part of the proposed upgrades is to narrow the central span of the Burrard Bridge to 4 lanes of traffic (down from the current 5 lanes) in order to provide separated pedestrian and cyclist pathways (northbound). The proposal also includes widening the north end of the bridge back to 6 lanes of traffic, at significant expense. City staff were asking for public feedback on the possibility of closing the entire bridge to traffic in order to speed up construction work, or to find other ways to complete the work sooner (such as working during the evenings and on Sundays).
This is not the first time that upgrades to the Burrard Bridge were considered by the City of Vancouver. Councillor George Affleck tweeted a reminder that improvements for cyclists and pedestrians were proposed in 2005:
— George Affleck (@george_affleck) June 3, 2015
An option that was examined in 2005 was the widening of the entire bridge in order to provide separated routes for cyclists and pedestrians, and to keep 6 lanes of traffic at the same time. One of the reasons that previous proposal might not have gone forward was due to concerns about heritage retention. Widening the bridge was opposed by former Heritage Vancouver president Donald Luxton.
It is certainly possible to widen a bridge to make additional room for pedestrians and cyclists. The Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows crossing is currently being upgraded; the west side of the bridge has been recently widened:
Are concerns about heritage sufficient to take any discussion on widening the main span of the Burrard Bridge off the table?
The current proposal put forward by City staff would widen the final 150 metre span of the bridge (before the intersection of Pacific and Burrard). While the existing concrete ‘heritage’ railing would be replaced, two new pedestrian walkways would extend beyond the current width of the bridge, as illustrated below:
The rationale behind widening the street to 6 lanes of traffic at Pacific was based on the City’s traffic modelling calculations (high volume of motor vehicles turning right on the northbound lane). An open question is whether a future bottleneck will be instead created on the south end of the bridge.
If the best option is to have 4 lanes of traffic, 2 separated bike lanes and 2 pedestrian paths, then could the City save millions of dollars by not widening the north end of the Burrard Bridge? Would a short, single right turn lane be sufficient?
A second Open House is planned for June 16, 2015 at the Roundhouse Community Centre (181 Roundhouse Mews) from 7pm to 9pm. There’s also an online survey for public feedback. The Burrard Bridge item is likely to go to City Council before the summer recess.
The current proposal does not have a right hand turn from Burrard to Pacific from the southbound lane (this is the current configuration):
The 4-year Capital Plan sets aside $40 million for new transportation projects. Part of the budget will be spent upgrades to the Burrard Bridge. Will the City be able to complete the remaining projects in the allotted budget?
Survey form from Open House
Burrard Bridge and Pacific Street Intersection Upgrades (City of Vancouver webpage)
Changes to Burrard Bridge & Pacific Street intersection proposed. Open Houses June 6th and 16th (CityHallWatch, June 1, 2015)
City of Vancouver holds public consultation over proposed changes to Burrard Bridge (Global News, June 6, 2015)